For 16 years, Todd and Janel Swanson owned and operated Monticello’s health club on Sandberg Road, along with two others in Buffalo and Zimmerman.
The clubs were first called Life Fitness Centers and later Syntregy Fitness, and those three facilities were the couple’s babies – both before and after they became the parents of six children.
When the Swansons sold their clubs to a Gold’s Gym franchisee in 2005, they did so with the thought that Gold’s Gym could come in and do for the clubs what they couldn’t do as a small, family-owned operation.
They thought a bigger corporation would ‘take their clubs to the next level’ for their members and staff.
Although they felt it was the best decision at the time, Janel said that selling the clubs was one of the hardest things they ever did.
“It was like I’d lost my family, because I’d been with the members and employees for so long,” Swanson said. “It’s almost like when you drop your kid off at day care for the very first time and feel that fear, wondering ‘are they going to take care of them?’ ”
The Swanson family did move on, relocating to South Carolina to raise their children – in part because it was so difficult to be nearby the clubs without being able to take care of their members and staff, Swanson said.
Despite their distance, they never lost track of how the health clubs back home were faring. Unfortunately, the news from home was not what they had expected.
The fitness centers went through three ownership changes in the Swanson’s seven-year absence, and the facilities were not well cared for or maintained, which was the opposite of what they had been expecting when they sold to Gold’s Gym.
Members told Todd and Janel that the clubs did not feel warm and inviting anymore. So the Swansons made a decision. It was time to take their clubs back.
With a cast of former longtime employees jumping back onboard to support the Swanson’s return to ownership, Todd and Janel said they are eager to return the three facilities, now called Fitness Evolution, to the clean, friendly clubs people could always expect from their business.
Janel said they plan to complete an improvement project each and every month, so that members can see the changes take place before their eyes.
The facilities have required major cleaning work, equipment has been repaired and Monticello’s swimming pool was repaired and reopened.
New equipment is arriving soon and locker rooms are on tap for a renovation, among other improvements.
Local resident Tara Moores has been working out at the Monticello location for five years now, and she said the atmosphere has changed since becoming Fitness Evolution.
“I will say, the club seems cleaner and there are less broken machines,” Moores said, “and the staff definitely seems more friendly and helpful.”
One of those employees Moores may be finding ‘friendly and helpful’ is Dean Gagnon, who rejoined Todd and Janel’s team and now works as the area manager for all three clubs.
“I started my career with them, so I’m very excited,” Gagnon said. “It’s exciting to work with them again because I know how they treat people and how they want these clubs ran.”
Gagnon said it has been a busy first two months back with all the cleaning and fixing up that needed to be done, but said it’s a great feeling to hear members say how happy they are with the improvements and the rate of change.
After the ups and downs of the whole process, Janel said they are excited to look forward, to build on their promise of friendliness and cleanliness and to create that sense of community again that members missed without the Swansons at the helm.
“We are excited to be back among our “family,” she said. “We have already received a very warm welcome back and the support from the members makes all of our efforts worthwhile.”
Freelancer Meghan Gutzwiller also covers education and the Monticello School District.